JUNE 2011: sent in by Fiona Wright, B.Ed (Homerton College, Cambridge), M.A. (University of London, Institute of Education)
... a few ideas that could be used in Primary Schools. I think one could do a series of ideas under headings like Rice, Tropical Fruit, Rubber etc... as starting points to bring in aspects of life for the WWII Far East prisoners of war.
What is rice? Can you identify the different sorts of rice? (short grain, long grain, brown, white, rice crispies, basmati, thai, etc..) Do you know where it comes from? What climate does it need to grow well in? What does « staple diet » mean? How many people in the world depend on rice as their staple diet? What other things can be made out of rice? (flour, paper, oil, bread... etc.)
Where does rice grow in the world? Find out the ideal climate for growing rice. What is a paddy field? Why do they often flood the fields? How long does it take before you can harvest it? How is it harvested? Why is terracing used to grow rice? How does the rice get to Europe?
Plant some rice seeds and watch them grow. What is the nutritional value of rice? Why are vitamins important in our diet? Can you name the important vitamins and where we find them? What would happen if we were missing some of the essential vitamins?
Can you think of 10 different ways to cook rice?
Chinese brush Painting technique using bamboo brush and painting on rice paper.
Chinese calligraphy, the meaning of characters,
Rice pictures using different grains of rice.
Making rice paper.
How many seeds of rice in a 100g? How much does a kilo of rice cost in the supermarket? How much does a seed cost?
World production of rice – what country produces the most rice, least rice etc.
Are the countries that produce rice rich? How much do you think a rice farmer is paid for a kilo? What happens to the rest of the money?
If you only ate rice for 3 years what would happen to you? Show photos of FEPOW suffering from beri beri disease. Why do these European men look like this? What happened to these men? Introduce the history of the FEPOW's and listen to accounts of food and nutrition (captivememories.org.uk). What happened to many of these men? Is there starvation in the world today?
What would it be like to only eat rice for 3 ½ years. Imagine how your feeling would change towards it. Imagine you were served rice on the trip home – what would you feel like? Write about your feelings.
What are proverbs? Can you think of any we use? What purpose do they serve?
Examples of Rice proverbs:
-Can a spoonful of rice fill the empty stomach?
-Without rice, even the cleverest housewife cannot cook.
Write your own proverb about rice. Imagine you are a FEPOW writing a proverb about rice.
Read short extracts from the accounts of the FEPOW's about inventing ways to cook rice and also the fermenting techniques used.
Rice traditions and customs
The Chinese word for rice is the same as the word for food. In Thailand when you call your family to a meal you say, "eat rice". The Japanese word for cooked rice is the same as the word for meal.
We've all experienced a wedding where a handful of rice is thrown upon newlyweds for good luck. This ancient ritual of throwing rice originally symbolized fertility and the blessing of many children – today it symbolizes prosperity and abundance.
Rice is the first food a new Indian bride offers her husband, often during the wedding itself and, perhaps instead of wedding cake. In India, it is also the first food offered to a newborn. Indians say that the grains of rice should be like two brothers – close, but not stuck together.
In Japan, there is an almost mystical aura surrounding the planting, harvesting and preparation of rice. It is believed that soaking rice before cooking releases the life energy of the rice and gives the eater a more peaceful soul. To persuade Japanese children to eat all of their rice, the grains are warmly called little Buddhas.
In China, young girls with fussy appetites are warned that every grain of rice they leave in their rice bowls will represent a mark on the face of their future husband. A typical Chinese greeting instead of "How are you?" is "Have you had your rice today?" One is expected to always reply, "Yes" to this greeting.
Is rice important in your family?
Have you any traditions or customs?
My interest in FEPOW history was awoken when a 6th form pupil, Hannah Parkes, was working on her A-level English Literature and Language coursework. She brought in the first drafts of a book her mother, Meg, was writing, based on Meg’s father’s Far East prisoner of war diary. Hannah used the text to analyse the way in which a diary is written and what story it tells. The book, ‘Notify Alec Rattray…’ tells the first part of the story of captivity at the hands of the Japanese during World War Two; a sequel taking the story up to the liberation and return home, was published a year or two later. After the war Hannah’s grandfather had been a GP in Wirral, his name was Dr Duncan.
It is important for the younger generation to understand the past and this was an ideal resource. Linking with Meg Parkes we set out a scheme of work which used her book – she generously donated a set to the school and they took pride of place on the shelf whilst the students worked on the content.
The idea was to use the diary as the springboard for a number of other creative tasks. Reading about the difficulties of coping with confinement led to lots of talk and imaginative work. Examples of content driven ideas were stories of hiding the diary so that it could not be found, waiting for food or making chairs and beds from bamboo.
Following the story from start to finish was also a valuable resource as descriptive writing could make reference to the voyage from camp to camp and dealing with the privations of war. It is good to look at a book and see pictures and maps to help feed the imagination.
We took a party of girls to Wirral Museum in Birkenhead for the launch of an exhibition based on the book. There we saw many of the artefacts brought back from Dr Duncan’s captivity. This was fascinating, especially listening to an original broadcast, recorded from American radio in 1944, stating that “A. A. Duncan is OK”. The link to a real person and a family that lived in the locality was also a good way to make the writing seem more realistic. Some students spoke about the fact that their parents had been patients of Dr Duncan’s.
We used the book to also see the way in which language is used to write a diary – the students did not have to make the paper or the ink as the FEPOW did but they could think about the way in which words could be chosen to convey the maximum amount of information – brevity is essential when resources are scarce. Giving them the task of writing to a set word limit was a challenging task but they rose to it and produced some excellent work.
Life today is so immediate it is perhaps worth realising that by reading the diaries and using the information students could understand that in order to survive the people had to be inventive and patient, to change the way things were done and to learn to pass time in captivity. Letters home were written by the students and the focus for these was the wish to let people know you were ok but also to reduce the worry and concern that must have been evident. Once again language choices were the main focus.
It was good to know that the draft of a book brought in by an A level student should be the spring board for so many fantastic initiatives and to offer the students of today a window on the past.
The links between our troops in Afghanistan and the experience of FEPOW were clearly made when a British soldier currently home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan came to talk to year 8 girls on the subject of “Missing Home”.
His hour long chat detailed some of the ways with modern technology it is possible to keep in touch with loved ones and cope with being so far away…
The girls later wrote reports of his visit and used the linguistic skill of comparison to explore the differences between being posted far overseas in the 1940’s with the current situation.
“It made me think about the big difference between travelling to other countries on holiday and being a soldier knowing you might be killed at any time. Mobile phones and satellites make it easier to keep in touch and because the British soldiers in Afghanistan are not captured they are freer to get the instant contact with their families. It made me think how lonely and sad the FEPOW must have been waiting to get the word home that they were still alive and having children growing up without them. I was really thinking about that.” Gemma